With his radio shows, The List and Talking With, John Smart provides a great service by interviewing a wide spectrum of political activists, religious leaders, and other persons of public import, offering a virtual agora for open discussion, exchange of ideas, and debate.
On the July 27, 2011 edition of Talking With, Smart interviewed Amy Siskind, co-founder of The New Agenda (“TNA.”) Siskind’s comments were at once obfuscating and revealing. TNA’s singular goal is to increase the number of women elected to office. While every true liberal would welcome such an increase, TNA’s method of achieving it is counterproductive to promoting gender equality, and dangerously corrosive to our society in general.
Replacing (R) & (D) with (XX) & (XY)
Describing itself as an “organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls by bringing about systemic change in the media, at the workplace, at school and at home,” TNA vaguely sets its goals as achieving “safety and opportunity for all women by addressing issues which unite us and by advancing women into leadership roles.”
TNA claims it is a “non-political” organization. But aside from the token bio of an athlete or link to some actresses charity, (plus a blog devoted to the standard denunciations of society’s affronts to women), TNA is primarily devoted to supporting political candidates.
We also know, from Siskind’s own telling of the story, that TNA’s founding members were political activists: Democrats, feminists, but most importantly, Hillary Clinton supporters. Once upon a time, they fought for things like universal healthcare, social programs, a fair tax burden, gay rights, protecting the environment, and, naturally, women’s choice. That was their old political agenda.
Following the Democratic Party’s rejection of their beloved candidate, these women readily abandoned their former principles to embrace a new agenda — help elect women of any political stripe. TNA doesn’t give a damn what your position is on women’s rights or any other issue. if you’ve got the XX chromosomes, you’re deemed a better choice for the office than any man could ever be.
If any doubt remained whether TNA has replaced the traditional Left vs. Right political struggle with the battle of the sexes, one need only look at TNA’s perverse labeling of races — “Solid Woman”, “Likely Woman,” “Leans Man,” etc.
Searching for Sexism in All the Wrong Places
An additional objective of TNA is to oppose sexism against any female candidate. A laudable goal, considering the many & egregious instances of sexual stereotyping in the media and politics. Sadly, TNA can often be found tilting at windmills, attacking sexism where none exists. Let’s look at four examples among many:
1) Gypsies, Tramps and Sluts
As proof of Siskind’s theory that “powerful woman are always diminished by being thrown into one of three categories” — either “bitch,” “ditz” or “slut/whore”, she pointed to the accusations of two extra-marital affairs (i.e., “slut”) made against then-gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Siskind dismisses out-of-hand the possibility that these affairs actually may have happened. Yet the allegations by her former speechwriter and another GOP politico were made in some detail, were backed by sworn affidavits, and were considered credible enough to be investigated by at least one local paper.
Moreover, in Haley’s case, such questions were entirely germane. Haley ran on a “family values” platform, while a large part of her appeal lay in her image as a wholesome mom and obedient, Christian wife. Haley had also publicly censured her predecessor & erstwhile mentor, Mark Sanford, for his own affair. To expose the hypocrisy of such a “family values” candidate is no more sexist than to investigate the illicit affairs of Jon Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger … or Ted Haggard.
2) Shut Up, Bitch!
Back in 2009, TNA got its panties all in a wad over the perceived sexist slight of TNA’s official Hlllary surrogate, Kirstin Gillibrand. On the occasion of the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, Gillibrand, like every other Democratic Senator, had been allotted five minutes to read into the record a brief, sugar-coated, meaningless endorsement. The notoriously long-winded Gillibrand “was just over 6 minutes and 15 seconds into what was to have been her five-minute speech” when chairman Patrick Leahy was seized by such overpowering misogyny as to gently remind Gillibrand that her time was up. When the loquacious rookie senator demanded “a minute more”, the wimminz-hatin’ Chair gaveled her.
TNA provided this “typical example of sexist behavior” from Leahy, who “apparently … didn’t take his anti-grumpy meds yesterday morning” — ouch, Amy! Talk about bitchy — with a thought bubble: “Sigh, young lady, what YOU have to say is simply not worth the time of day. Finish off so someone important (e.g. a male senator) can speak.”
Except that Gillibrand was the last speaker before the vote. Except that every other senator came in near or under the allotted five minutes. Nah … had to be the sexism.
3) The Shrill Word
Like other “gender-degrading” language, use of the word “shrill” has been banned by TNA as a “description of a woman’s natural vocal range:”
As we all know, the word ‘shrill’ has a very negative connotation when used to describe a woman or a woman’s voice. The term ‘shrill’ has recently been used by the media as a purposeful weapon against female candidates, although never male candidates.
This “disparaging adjective is a textbook example of gender-coded language that has been around for a long time…. This type of language is demeaning, misogynistic, and reminiscent of the Victorian era” and so must never, ever be used again. By anyone.
Except for TNA members, like Amy Siskind, who are allowed to call each other “shrill.” Siskind here:
I was driving my kids to their post-camp pre-school dental appointments when my cell phone rang.
Cynthia … was calling to let me know that she was hearing that McCain would announce shortly AND that he had picked a woman!
On the way back from the dentist, the phone rang again — Cynthia was so excited when she called. She was screaming that is was Palin – we both shrilled with excitement.
This must be like how it’s OK for niggahs to call each other “niggah,” but we can’t. I don’t quite understand the logic, but how could I, seeing as I’m not a Shrill.
4) American History For Ditzes
On Talking With, Siskind accused the media of unfairly peppering Sarah Palin & Michele Bachmann with hard “questions on historical figures and Paul Revere” that male GOP candidates were not asked. In Siskind’s world-view, this can only be due to misogyny, and totally unrelated to:
- The Tea Party claiming philosophical heritage from the American Revolution;
- Both Palin and Bachmann exhibiting a glaring igrorance of said American Revolution by making outrageously false statements.
Siskind’s argument might be more persuasive had she presented examples of male TP figures bolloxing American History, and then highlighted the double standard in treatment. Yet she didn’t (or couldn’t), and instead copped out with her standard interpretation: that every attack on a female candidate is always a sexist attack.
Abortion Is Never an Issue (Unless Amy Says it Is)
TNA insists that abortion rights should never be a factor in women’s voting. TNA’s 2008 epiphany was that Choice v. Pro-Life only divides women, diverting them from their common goal of helping women everywhere beat men. So, TNA will never make a candidate’s stance on abortion an issue in a campaign.
Except when Siskind endorses a candidate, as she did with Meg Whitman over Jerry Brown. The “non-political” TNA felt justified in breaking its no-endorsement pledge because one of Brown’s (female) staffers used one of the FORBIDDEN WORDS to describe Whitman — “whore.”
So, in a Huffy Poo article, Siskind exhorted women, especially former Hillary supporters, to back Meggers — “a working mom” (ROTFLMAO) over Brown and his “long track record of sexism.” Siskind pointly referred to a decades-old Brown comment implying ambivalence on women’s choice, then falsely claimed that Whitman had never changed her position, when in truth Meggers had flip-flopped at least twice that year.
OK, except when Amy Siskind gets really mad, supporting a woman’s right to control over her own body is not relevant. Why? Because GOP “women understand women’s issues. Plain and simple.”
- That’s why TNA favorite Sharron Angle advised the victims of rape or incest to “make a lemon situation into lemonade”;
- That’s why TNA favorite Kelly Ayotte dragged Planned Parenthood before the Supreme Court in an attempt to save a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification prior to abortion on a minor;
- That’s why TNA favorite Nikki Haley voted repeatedly to make all abortions illegal, then as governor vetoed $56 million in education spending;
- That’s why TNA favorite Sarah Palin nominated a known perpetrator of sexual harassment for the position of Alaska’s public safety commissioner.
Qualified for Pub[l]ic Office
Siskind insists that Michele Bachmann “is very qualified to be President.” This ‘qualification’ must be Bachmann’s pudenda, since in most circles, a career House back-bencher with zero legislation and marginal real-world experience is not considered “qualified” to be POTUS. Unless, it seems, you’re a woman (or half-black), then you’re bumped to the head of the list, past truly qualified candidates.
In 2010, TNA lamented the low percentage of female candidates, but gushed giddily about how the GOP was “quietly filling its ranks with women.” But as I pointed out following the midterms, in 2010 the Democrats still lapped the GOP 2-to-1 when it came to running women. Yet for some unexplained reason, TNA displays an undue fondness for the GOP.
“I luuuv Susana Martinez!” Siskind exclaimed on Talking With. And what’s not to love? She’s got tits and a snatch, thus meeting all of Siskind’s rigorous requirements for public office. It’s just icing on the cake that Martinez also:
- Opposes federally-funded abortions;
- Opposes any form of gun control;
- Supports an amendment banning same-sex marriage;
- Supports school vouchers;
- Vetoed $56 million in education funding;
- Opposes any tax increases; advocates reducing corporate taxes to ‘create jobs’.
Not to mention that Martinez is a rabid global warming denier and anti-environmentalist who:
- Accepted $220,000 in contributions from gas & oil donors;
- Moved to gut state pollution regulations;
- Named a conspiracy crackpot as environmental chief;
- Violated the state constitution by ordering that new environmental rules adopted by the state not be published.
TNA had declared the 2010 New Mexico gubernatorial race a “guaranteed win for our side“ because Martinez’ opponent, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, was also female. Yet Siskind and TNA displayed an unmistakable preference for the Republican.
Why was TNA so lukewarm about Denish? She had a track record of helping families and young children, and advocated expanding early education funding and nutrition programs. She was pro-environment with a plan for creating green jobs. She supported single-payer healthcare with universal coverage for every child. Denish was heartily endorsed by the pro-choice Emily’s List. As Lt. Governor, Denish lobbied for the passage of DNA sampling known as Katie’s Law — the same Katie’s Law TNA wrongly credits then-county DA Martinez with introducing.
The real reason behind TNA’s embrace of the GOP? Revenge, ‘plain & simple.’` In the minds of these women, the Democratic party was their loser husband, Earl, his rejection of Hillary the last straw in a long and abusive relationship.
When will the women of this nation stop accepting “guilt gifts” from the men in their lives who act abusively?
So these ladies worked out a plan, and didn’t take long to decide that Earl had to die.
When will we finally deliver the tough love and consequences for improper behavior?
Enter the dapper, older gentleman, McCain, to whisper the sweet nothings that these jilted pumettes craved. Yes, we care about you. I sooo want a woman as my running mate! I value your input and your support.
Thelma and Louise Siskind and co. fell for it hook, line and sinker. It meant abandoning every liberal principle that fosters women’s rights and real gender equality, but the sweet taste of revenge (maybe with some fried green tomatoes on the side?) was worth it.
Earl’s the Democratic Party’s sophomoric and sexist “Liberal Dude Nation” antics, TNA has decided to get back by throwing themselves into the arms of another man Party: “Democratic (and newly Independent) women are finally saying: Enough! If this keeps up, in 2012, former and current Democratic women might just be pulling the ‘R’ lever.”
And there we have it: the sad, embarrassing spectacle of alleged modern woman, Amy Siskind, displaying the archetypical, emotional, irrational fury of a woman scorned.
TNA’s home page prominently features this definition:
Prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination on the basis of sex.
Yet selecting candidates solely on the basis of their their gender — the very agenda of The New Agenda — is sexism in its most raw and ugly manifestation. “Sexism has no place in this great country,” insists Siskind. Yet, on Talking With, out of the other side of Siskind’s mouth came “voting on gender is a relevant criteria.”
“How did we allow such a high level of acceptable sexism to exist and flourish?” asks Siskind. That query is a bit of joke from “a lifelong Democrat” who admits she voted GOP for the first time ever “for one reason: McCain selected a woman as his running mate.”
TNA’s smug pride in removing the “divisive” Choice issue is overshadowed by the far greater divide they create by pitting one half of the population against the other. Is the goal is to establish a political landscape where men & woman are treated equally? Where, as Siskind claims to seek, “all the candidates are put on equal footing” regardless of gender? If so, then TNA is heading in the absolute wrong direction by prioritizing gender in its selection and treatment of politicians.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. The New Agenda is wrong, very wrong.
(c) 2011 by ‘tamerlane.’ All rights reserved.
TL, I was baffled, perhaps due to my own pudendum, about Siskind’s (can I say shrill?) defense of Bachmann when I heard JWS’s interview. She, as are you and I, is admittedly technically “qualified to be president,” true. But that’s a red herring to distract us from the fact that by any but these LCD Idiocracy means tests, she is not qualified, even less so than I’d say you or JWS are, given you both know more about politics and Murican history (herstory?) and even pop culture than she has shown in her gaffes.
Intriguing backstory you’ve excavated, TL, about Meg vs. Jerry in our own state being Amy’s choice. I wish JWS had asked her about this on air. A reductio ad pudendam argument reveals the sad state of those “progressive” hypocrites who decry those of us who’ve opposed Obama as racists, when we voted for candidates based on external features we have no control over (well, until certain operations recently), and not their internal smarts.
I did not back Hilary because she is a woman anymore than I rejected Obama as a man, half-whatever. That’s not how I vote. One legacy of growing up in the later 20c is that I thought we’d get beyond such segmenting and fragmenting of the voters, but the Dems certainly play into this more and more, now whining about redistricting as yet another tactic of The Man against the protected “minorities.” I live in urban districts at least 85% “minority,” as it happens, which will be Democrat from here to eternity, Voting is beside the point, where I reside, as we have one-party rule. That makes me even more tired of the special pandering that promotes any woman, or any “special interest” or “— of color” or for that matter the vanishing WASP over anyone else running for office. I feel as if this posturing repeats Tammany Hall for a supposedly more “inclusive” but just as divisive and cynical populace.
You, me, Michele, and I think just barely young Amy, are all ELIGIBLE to be POTUS under Art II, Sec 1. “Qualified” is a whole other kettle of fish.
I voted for Hillary because she was the best candidate. Amy voted for her because Hillary was a woman. That makes Amy Siskind a sexist piece of shit.
And college professors are not *totally* useless — we occasionally need them to present us with latinate gems such as “reductio ad pudendam argument”!
Still angry about that prom date you didn’t get? Or did your mother take you off the tit too soon? I’d love to write a rebuttal but I don’t engage stupid.
Hazel, I’m so disappointed. Your first visit to my wee blog, and you hit me in the face with an ad hominem attack? Didn’t you have anything constructive to add, specific points to contest — or was this just a drive-by blogging?
I’ve got bad news for you: you just did “engage in stupid.”
FYI, I’m still friends with both the girl I took to prom, and the one I’d wished I’d taken. And all three of us are so infinitely more satisfied with how our lives turned out than it seems you are.
Oh, and my mom & I are tight! Like best friends, homeys. Spent 2+ hours on the phone with her just yesterday!
But hey, Hazel, good luck with all that pent-up anger and inchoate hatred!
Wow. You talk to you mom. That’s a feminist if I ever heard one. You put the backward men in ad hominem.
Hazel, are you the racehorse or the maid? Cuz I already have a couple of racehorses, but I could use a maid, being a man and all who leaves his dirty socks lying around and shit like that.
But serious — either say something constructive, pro or contra, or get the fuck out of here. I encourage opposing opinions here, but not whiney baby talk. I’ve just shown you your yellow card, ya follow?
LOL I am the maid…..and you’re a doozy. I give anyone points who knows Hazel. I usually don’t do drivebys on blogs but your post was just dripping with anger. We’ll call a truce and I’ll do a self ban…good luck.
Hazel, please actually critique something or get your ass back in the kitchen where it belongs…
I guess it is fine that I say that since I am a woman. My insult should be supported by TNA, right? After all, I am a woman! What a bunch of intellectually lazy simpletons…as if you should align yourself with 50% of the population JUST BECAUSE you share the same gender. Their motto should be “Fighting sexism with even more sexism!”
By the way, great piece Tamer–though their (TNA) ideology pretty easy to tear apart, don’t you think?
Maybe “straightforward” but not “easy” — I had to slog through 2+ years of grating TNA blog posts & Siskind articles! Exposing TNA’s dangerous methods is important, as Siskind is given unwarranted respect at places like Huffy Poo, Daily Beast, FOX, CNN. (Talking With is another matter, as John Smart makes a point of allowing controversial guests to speak their mind, and letting the listeners decide.)
Mr. T, you’re exactly the kind of male who creates the Amy Siskinds of the world. Obama is another. Your casual use of sexist insults and his reliance on sexism to achieve his ends engender the kind of anger that results in women of very different values banding together survive and prosper in your male-privileged world.
I think Mr. & Mrs. Siskind are more to blame for creating Amy. My casual use of sexist insults is in direct response to TNA’s sanctimonious banning of certain words. It’s snarky; it’s satirical; it’s Swiftian; it’s a little scurrilous. And if you can’t get that, then I have a funny joke about feminists and a lightbulb you won’t appreciate.
Swiftian? Now, that’s the most amusing thing I’ve read since the last time Obama compared himself to Lincoln.
I think the basic premesis of a 51% solution is a good idea, and I myself am ambivalent about whether one needs to be pro-choice to be a feminist, but Siskind goes about it the wrong way. Your dissection of her logic is spot on. To vote for someone just because she is a woman is as sexist as voting for someone just because they are black is racist.
Getting more women in politics isn’t about voting for people just because they’re women. Its about empowering women to have the opportunity to be equally represented, and a man is just as capable of doing that as a woman.
Like Fionnchu, I didn’t vote for Hillary because she was a lady, I voted her because I thought she was candidate most capable of ending the wars, fixing the economy and promoting women’s rights around the world- which she all ready does anyway. A lot of people who started out supporting the New Agenda’s agenda ended up getting disgusted and dropping them.
And if Bachmann is qualified to be President, I’m qualified to be a Sunday School Teacher- and everyone knows I’m not.
If you want to make the argument that other women’s rights issues exist beyond Choice, and that common ground could be found fighting for them, you’d have a reasonable argument.
If TNA was really fighting sexist attacks on all female politicians, instead of just reflexively shrilling “that’s sexist!” to defend their favorites, that would be productive. But they aren’t, and they go way beyond that, by campaigning for any women and against every man. They also revel in being “bad” and supporting the GOP they once opposed. That’s sick and wrong, and damaging to the very ideals they claim to espouse.
P.S. Having you as a sunday school teacher would be a blast!
littleisis, I’m very disappointed that you’ve chosen to validate this individual’s hateful screed. It’s nothing but a laundry list of dismissive insults to women couched in language designed to diminish their legitimate concerns and their legitimate responses to their legitimate concerns.
I saw it more as a laundry list of all the really stupid things Amy Siskind has said over the past three years, couched in a screed against her bizarre logic of substituting genitalia for political positions.
Jean, Tamerlane has a unique brand of contrarianism that I understand because I also have a unique brand of contrarianism. As he explained, his use of sexist insults is meant to be satirical. I once wrote a post about Sarah Palin and called her “Caribou Barbie” and “Bible Spice.” Some people didn’t realize I was being sarcastic and they were miffed.
The bottom line is, he makes a valid point and certainly has a right to his opinion.
I’m sure when you wrote this piece you had to know the “heat” you would take for not recognizing that every woman, regardless of how she approaches issues involving feminism, is not necessarily a feminist.
Simply put, sharing the same “lady parts” is an automatic guarantee that you are a “feminist”. It’s not.
When any female politician calls for the overthrow of abortion rights, attacks Planned Parenthood, suggests that rape and incest are a “blessing”, attacks homosexuality as corrupt and dysfunctional’, that person has given up all claims to be considered a “feminist”.
I agree that having more women serving in congress is a correct goal, but it matters a great deal what these women believe by way of equal rights for all. They don’t.
They also stand in the way of education when they admit, or hint to admitting, doubts surrounding climate change and evolution. Suggesting that Creationism be taught alongside science in schools raises serious questions about their abilities as critical thinkers.
You cannot be considered a “feminist” when calling for the overthrow of the fundamental right to choose and maintain control over our own body. Nor can you be considered a feminist by eliminating the basic right to privacy.
Feminism is about equality not a “pick and choose” proposition that is nothing more than a reinforcement of the patriarchal position that has strangled women from the begininning.
Pat, I hoped that by providing examples of Palin’s, Angle’s, Martinez’ et al. positions, it would be recognized that “every woman is not a feminist.” By highlighting Siskind’s double standards and hypocrisy, I hoped to show that neither she nor the TNA are “feminists.” Siskind is a “femalist” perhaps. She certainly has waived her right to call herself “pro-choice”, “liberal”, “a Democrat” after eagerly supporting such vile candidates.
It amazes me that these women candidates share the same positions as their male counterparts yet are treated quite differently owing exclusively to their gender.
Questioning those same positions invites “sexist” as a way of explanation in some quarters. Why would I promote or support women who are involved with denying me my rights if given the opportunity? Why would I stand behind a candidate of either sex who targets the gay community as evil? Why would I praise the efforts of any candidate who denies evolution and science and wants to rewrite history?
Matters not who says as much, male or female, they equally share in these positions which go against my Democratic priniciples. Simple as that.
And Emily’s List exists for rational people like you. TNA exists for irrational people like Siskind, out for revenge. My hunch is they only supported HRC in the first place because she was a woman — heck, we know that’s why they support Palin!
Tammer, I have to wonder. With all the shit going on the the world, why pick on Amy?
I think Amy’s hypocrisy, and totally deranged logic, as covered in this piece, is sufficient explanation.
Like Kara, I don’t see any benefit in “fighting sexism with even more sexism!” At best, it’s nasty affirmative action; at worst, it’s hateful. Whatever, it’s highly corrosive to liberal ideals, women’s rights, and society in general. So I fight it.
But one reason Amy has given me to fight (though I refuse to accept combat on those terms) is: she’s declared me, a man — all men, the enemy. She made it Us vs. Them, that is, Women vs. Men, and in that disgusting fight, I’m not on her “side.”
Why doesn’t TNA just support Emily’s List? Because they need to punish Earl.
I was watching Gloria Steinem: In Her Own Words on HBO the other night. About half of the way through, I noticed that I was totally cheering for her and agreed with pretty much everything she said. Then I wondered, “Why can I not abide the internet feminists that I run into on Smart’s blog and other places? Why do people like Madama and her Bees repel me on this subject?” I maintain that it’s because they aren’t feminists, they’re victimists — and there’s a big difference.
It’s nice to remember that I actually agree with feminism at its core.
Tamer, There are still women out there, [trust me on this} who view taking up ’causes’ as something to do between tennis games. They have the luxury of doing this because some poor sod is still out there bringing in the bacon, to pay for the tennis shoes, and the nice car to drive to important meetings[usually involving lunch} with other members of the coven.
Somehow, the irony in this does not dawn on them.
Someday, I’d like to have a discussion on the lives of men and their supposed advantages. It’s only fair.
Damn straight! This group of self-described “successful businesswomen” (Siskind a stock trader) take umbrage at the “male-privileged world”?!
Granted, there is indeed something fundamentally wrong with the American collective conscious when only c. 17% of our elected officials are women. But I see it stemming from hurtful sexual stereotypes of both men & women. Why are men looked down on if they become nurses, teachers … or riding instructors? We all try to live up (or down) to expectations, to fit our round selves into pre-ordained square holes, and it takes a toll. I’d say our society is less sexist than mal-adjusted, infantile, even.
I, for one, as am insulted by male stereotypes as female stereotypes. When closely examined, gender stereotypes are a mindf*ck that make it impossible for men and women to communicate. I honestly believe with all my heart that even the divorce rate would go down if it weren’t for the ridiculous expectations our society hoists on men and women. Like, if you’re a guy and you’d rather talk to your wife than watch a football game, you’re not a man. If you’re a gal, and you’d rather go to the bar with your b*tches and get some d*ck than paint your toenails and talk about your feelings, you’re not a lady. Its bull shit.